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Notes on two big beer dinners

17 North hosts a debut beer dinner and Laura Alberts welcomes Holy City brews

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Mt. Pleasant eatery 17 North Roadside Kitchen opened in 2010, offering a menu of Southern and American fare. On Tues. Jan. 17, Executive Chef Brannon Florie and his team hosted their debut beer dinner with five-courses of Asian-tinged dishes paired with fine ales from the San Diego-based Stone Brewing Co. City Paper food and beer writer Eric Doksa and I were in attendance.

Meanwhile, on Thurs. Jan. 19, Daniel Island bistro Laura Alberts Tasteful Options — a longtime proponent of beer and wine dinners — hosted a Holy City Brewing Beer Dinner with four courses and five new beers from the local microbrewery.

At 17 North Roadside Kitchen, Stone Brewing rep Scott Sheridan was on hand to present each course with Florie. The pairing that Doksa was most skeptical about at the Stone Brewing dinner was the marinated tofu with Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale (8.7 percent a.b.v.).

"Tofu and beer? Lo and behold, this turned out really well," he says. "After everyone figured out that the noodles should be eaten with chop sticks and the broth scooped up with the wonton spoon, the full-flavored bowl of ramen was sucked down with delight. Sweet flavors of ginger and anise were complimented by the robust hop character of the ale."

Doksa's favorite dish of the night was the 13-day ginger-braised pork belly, drizzled with a reduction of ginger ale, Coke, and Stone Smoked Porter (5.9 percent a.b.v.). "The meat was so succulent it fell apart with the slightest nudge," he says. "The taro root, daikon radish, and Asian pair salad added a touch of sweetness as the wasabi mashed potatoes expelled a slight bit of heat. The rich smokiness of the porter accented an already stellar dish."

A quick survey of the room showed many of the patrons sweating, but with smiles on their faces after sampling the house kimchee during the fourth course. "The rare kobe beef and tuna tataki were delicious, but, wow, the house kimchee was spicy," Doksa says. "The Stone Arrogant Bastard (7.2 percent a.b.v.) was without a doubt the beer that left many pint glasses the fastest as everyone extinguished the heat of the kimchee."

We all enjoyed the level of service and the steady pace at the dinner. "A lot of beer dinners seem to lag and go on forever but it seemed each course came out right on time," Doksa says. "This was an outstanding achievement considering it was the very first beer dinner held at 17 North. Florie surpassed expectations by creating a delectable, Asian-inspired meal that paired well with the big, bold beers of Stone. We should all keep an eye out for future dinners at 17 North."

The sold-out event at dinner at Laura Alberts Tasteful Options went well, too. Booking the mellow acoustic-rock trio Rustic Remedy for the dinner was a nice touch. They were tight, groovy, and never too loud.

Executive Chef Matt Brigham and his team mixed various styles from course to course. Holy City's Chris Brown and Sean Nemitz presented the ales and lagers.

For an up-and-coming microbrewery that's been in business for only six months, Holy City Brewing has quickly expanded its range beyond what many local beer fans expected. Seeing three new seasonal lagers and two new seasonal ales on this menu was impressive and exciting. The lagers included a smooth and malty Vienna Lager, an amber-colored Smoked Marzen, and a bold and roasty New Year's Resolution Dopplebock. Holy City's hoppy Category 4 IPA and roasty Collision Stout rounded things out.

In food and beer, smoke can be a tricky component. It's easy to go overboard with it. Holy City's new Smoked Marzen (6.3 percent a.b.v.), an amber-colored Bavarian-style lager with toasty character, struck a wonderful balance between beechwood-smoked malt flavors and aromas. The sharper smoke flavors of the mesquite/green tea-smoked prawn complemented the lager. Served chilled with butter cabbage, the prawn was terrific. We all wished there was more than just one on each plate.

Holy City's hoppy Category 4 IPA (8 percent a.b.v.), a strong but overly bitter India Pale Ale spiced with Magnum hops, somehow didn't overpower the delicate arugula salad tossed with honey and white balsamic vinaigrette. With the sliced grapefruit, pickled red onion, and goat cheese snow, there were a lot of acidic flavors on the plate. The ale cleansed the palate nicely.

Duck and stout seemed like a heavy, rich pairing — and it was. The Maple Farms Duck Breast was sliced thick over duck confit-braised barley and roasted brussels sprouts and a jus made with Holy City's dry Collision Stout (8.7 percent a.b.v.). Full-bodied and malty, the stout (named for Holy City's salvage yard neighbors) was full of coffee, caramel, and dark chocolate notes, which paired well with the succulent, peppery duck. The slightly earthy notes from the barley and sprouts could have been a hit dish all by themselves.

Laura Alberts owner Karen Elsey noted the time and effort the kitchen put into making the malt ball ice cream for the open-faced Charleston Chew sandwich topped with a beer foam made from the New Year's Resolution Dopplebock (10 percent a.b.v.). The caramel, nougat, and chocolate character of the malt-ball dish with wine-y, dark-berry maltiness of the strong lager made for a fantastic closer.

17 North hosts its first-ever beer dinner and Laura Alberts welcomes Holy City brews.

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